Dissertations and theses reflect the quality and breadth of original graduate research at universities, and are often the first form in which scholarly insights and the results of focused experiments appear. They reveal trends of interest, the rigor of particular departments and institutions, and the creativity of researchers whose influence is still unknown.
Access to dissertations depends on a complex, decentralized economy of innumerable currencies. Some universities provide copies free of charge, some will only lend a circulating copy. Some make copies for free, some for a fee, and others only if the requestor can supply written permission from the author (no easy task). Some provide open access, (some requiring an electronic use agreement and some not), some through ILL or document delivery, and some through digital services. Some universities participate in national programs providing digitization services (with exceptions) and some seem to have no point of contact at all (unless an email found through a web search can be considered reliable).
The challenge CRL faces in gaining access goes beyond understanding which currency to use where; CRL aims to create a simple, seamless exchange between author and potential reader with a minimum of delay in the process.
CRL holds more than 800,000 doctoral dissertations and Habilitationsschriften from universities outside of the U.S. and Canada. The collection was built by deposits from member libraries and exchange or depository arrangements with almost 100 universities.
Current acquisitions and services focus on purchasing dissertations through CRL’s purchase programs, acquisitions through deposit or exchange agreements and providing members with information about open-access dissertations.
- Most were written in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but dates range from 1800 to the present.
- Most are from countries in Western Europe, such as Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Many are from other countries in Europe and Latin America, South America, and Africa.
- More than 80 languages are represented in the collection. The breakdown of languages is: 66 percent German; 16 percent French; 6 percent English; 2 percent Dutch; 1 percent Latin and Swedish; and less than 1 percent for other languages.
- Contains about 120 dissertations by nobel laureates and numerous other notable scholars. All of the nobel laureates dissertations are digitized and a sizable portion of the notable scholars dissertations are digitized as well.
Finding dissertations in the CRL collection:
All dissertations can be most easily searched in the dissertation scope of the CRL catalog, which has drop-down searches for country and university. This Google Map shows location for dissertations owned by CRL and includes catalog links for the dissertations.
Digitized or electronic dissertations:
CRL’s digitization-on-demand service has digitized over 3,000 dissertations from CRL’s collection. The number of dissertations digitized from the collection continues to grow and can be searched via CRL’s catalog digital resources scope.